Duck River EMC Offers You a Piece of the Sun

Guest Blog | April 17, 2013 | Energy Efficiency, Energy Policy, Solar, Utilities
DREMC's solar farm in Shelbyville, TN

Do you want to invest in solar, but you can’t? Maybe your roof doesn’t point south, or it’s shaded most of the time. Maybe you rent. Maybe you just can’t come up with the up-front cost of a solar system. Well, if your local distributor is Duck River EMC, all those problems are solved!

Duck River EMC has become the first local distributor in the Tennessee Valley Authority’s service territory to offer its members access to their very own community solar farm.

DREMC looked around their service territory and noticed they had a dozen or more solar photovoltaic installations feeding electricity into their system. Clearly there’s some interest by their members in solar. So DREMC built a 26 kilowatt solar farm near their headquarters in Shelbyville, Tennessee.

If you’re a DREMC member, this gives you the opportunity to purchase a share of the solar array. The array consists of 108 panels, manufactured by Sharp right here in Tennessee. DREMC is offering the chance to buy an interest in the electrical production of half of one of these panels for $600. So there are 216 shares available.

What do you get for your investment? You get access to the benefits of the electricity produced by the system.

Since DREMC was the first, and so far only, TVA distributor to qualify as an energy provider under TVA’s Generation Partners Program, that means you get to sell your share of the solar farm’s electricity to TVA at 12 cents per kWh. That’s over and above the current retail rate.

Another reason you might want to jump on this is that this 12 cents per kWh rate is no longer available to individual program applicants. TVA has reduced the premium to 9 cents per kWh, but since this project was completed under the original premium, the original 12 cents per kWh is what you’ll get if you invest. That means you’ll be getting over 22 cents per kWh for the electricity generated by your share, credited to your monthly utility bill. This 12 cents per kWh price premium over the retail rate will be in effect until April 2022, at which point investors are assured they will be paid at least the retail rate, for the balance of the 10 year investment, whatever it happens to be at that time.

These shares are being sold as units of a limited partnership, so there might be some tax advantages for you; check with your tax advisor. One other nice touch: if you can’t come up with the $600 for a share of the solar farm, DREMC will allow you to pay in 12 monthly installments, interest-free, right on your utility bill.

According to Charles McDonald, who’s running this program for DREMC, 113 of the 216 units available have already been sold. The rest will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis. The program is in its early stages, so it’s probably too early to tell if it will be a huge success, but so far, it certainly hasn’t been a failure!

If you want to see how the solar farm is doing right now, DREMC offers real-time monitoring of their solar farm’s production here: DREMC Solar Farm Monitoring.

If you’re a member of Duck River EMC check out the program offering here. If you’re not, don’t you wish your utility company provided you this opportunity? Hey, it’s your utility, let them know. Duck River EMC has paved the way; your distributor could be next!

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